| Updated: September 23, 2020
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How Betsy DeVos Picked a Big Fight Over COVID-19 Relief: An Explainer

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When President Donald Trump signed a federal coronavirus relief package into law, few would have expected the fiercest battle over its K-12 component would involve money to private school students. Yet when U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued guidance about that package, it touched off a major dispute over who should benefit from how much coronavirus relief. DeVos' directive also revived the intense dispute about her priorities and relationships with different types of schools. In this presentation, we'll look at that guidance, the reaction to it, the rule she issued to enforce her view, and the history behind it.

The fight DeVos initiated is about equitable services. Under federal law, these are resources and programs school districts must provide to certain disadvantaged students who attend local private schools. These services can include tutoring, parent engagement, technology licenses, and professional development for educators. They must be secular, and they must be selected after a consultation process between districts and private schools. The original Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 included a requirement for equitable services. A requirement for districts to provide equitable services is also part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the federal law for special education. The basic idea is that disadvantaged children in general, not just those in public schools, should benefit from federal aid to help with their education.

Related Story: DeVos Partially Retreats in Fight Over COVID Aid and Private School Students

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